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Keeping Employees Energised and Increase their Efficiency

A modern approach to maintaining creativity and accuracy

Everyone recognises the tendency to persist in working on to get something finished. We do this even though making headway becomes increasingly difficult as time goes on, mistakes start to be made and creativity suffers. The reason for this is that our concentration is limited to one hour time periods and because our energy levels fluctuate during the day.

Our energy levels are especially low in the afternoon (Thayer, 2001). Not surprisingly, one’s typing speed is slower and the number of typing errors is greater in the afternoon than in the morning. During the afternoon, studies show that concentration is reduced after just 20 minutes.

After an hour, staff work noticeably more slowly and make more mistakes. In the afternoon, problem solving skills are also greatly reduced with staff persisting in working on inefficient solutions. (Boksem et al., 2005; Lorist et al., 2000, 2005). This may sound familiar.

An effective strategy to restore concentration is to take regular pit stops, a quick refreshing reanimation every 15 minutes, and focusing on something else for a short period every hour. This can be done by doing something completely different, such as a short walk, exercises or reading (Coker, 2011; Sauter & Swanson, 1991).

The most important element is that whatever you do is a switch from the work you are breaking from. This increases one’s working speed and reduces the number of errors we make. Estimates show that the gain in efficiency can be at least 15 minutes a day (Van den Heuvel et al., 2002; Hedge & Evans, 2001).

Although taking pit stops during work is effective, it is also counterintuitive. In a Formula 1 race, a racing driver enters the pits while his competitors race on. But by servicing his car and temporarily allowing the driver to break concentration and refocus his average speed during the race increases.

Similarly, the efficiency gained by making the pit-stop in total outweighs the apparent delay caused by carrying out the procedure.

More than half of staff take lunch at their desk (Ijmker, 2008). If colleagues do not take pit-stops, this makes it culturally difficult to take a necessary pit stop oneself. Research shows that we are incredibly bad at identifying when we need to take a pit-stop and often stop after we already feel tired and mental fatigue has set in.

To perform at an optimum level for longer periods we need to pit-stop before we start to feel the effects of fatigue. A solution is to make staff conscious of when pit stops are needed.

The value of the pit stop

CtrlWORK from Efficiency Software is an advisory software solution that suggests pit-stops to staff via messages displayed on screen. Messages will only load when the software recognises that an individual has been working continuously at their computer for an extended period without taking a natural pit-stop. If a natural pit-stop is taken then CtrlWORK will not unnecessarily intervene.

These pit-stop messages are designed to be positive, attractive and educational. They are broad-ranging and grouped into types so that staff can turn off any that will not interest them. After all, not everybody finds the same things interesting. The types of messages include; news flashes from the internet, as well as company intranet messages, email and time management tips, even exercises and postural advice.

Organisations can put together bespoke content for pit-stops on any subject they wish to promote to staff. To encourage good pit-stop behaviour among staff, the software provides feedback at the start of the working day when the employee is most open to it.


Boksem, M.A.S., Lorist, M.M., Meijman, T.F. Effects of mental fatigue on attention: an ERP study (2005) Cognitive Brain  Research, 25, 106-117.

Coker BLS. Freedom to surf: the positive effects of workplace Internet leisure browsing. New Technology, Work and Employment. 2011,26(3), 238–247.

Hedge A and Evans SJ. Ergonomic Management Software and Work Performance: An evaluative study. Cornell University Human Factors Laboratory Technical Report /RP2501, Ithaca, NY, 2001.

van den Heuvel SG, de Looze MP, Hildebrandt VH, Thé KH. Effects of software programs stimulating regular breaks and exercises on work-related neck and upper-limb disorders. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2003 Apr;29(2):106-16

Ijmker S. Risk factors for arm-wrist-hand and neck-shoulder symptoms among office workers: a longitudinal perspective. Thesis, VU University, Amsterdam, 2008.

Lorist, M.M.,  Klein, M., Nieuwenhuis, S., De Jong R., Mulder G., Meijman T.F., Mental fatigue and task control: planning and   preparation, Psychophysiology 37 (2000) 614– 625.

Lorist, M.M., Boksem, M.A.S., Ridderinkhof, K.R. Impaired control and reduced cingulate activity during mental fatigue (2005)   Cognitive Brain Research, 24, 199-205.

Sauter SL and Swanson NG. Increased rest breaks yield increased productivity in repetitive VDU work. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Human Factors Society. 1991, San Francisco, USA.

Thayer RE. Calm Energy. How people regulate mood with food and exercise. Oxford University Press, 2001.


Worker in need of energising

October 2013


Further information

Our guest author is Stefan IJmker PhD, human movement scientist, epidemiologist and senior consultant at Efficiency Software. Stefan focuses on combining insights from health, performance and behavorial change research in order to offer practical solutions for organizations to improve health and productivity.

Efficiency Software, part of the well established Ergo Systems International Group, provides tools for office based staff offering a triple return on investment:

  1.  Increased employee efficiency/productivity
  2. Improved employee wellbeing
  3. Improved employees computer skills

Efficiency Software has launched 4 clever software tools. This month we look at the research behind CtrlWORK, their longest established solution, which has over 700,000 end users globally.

CtrlWORK can be piloted with a test group free from charge and obligation. For more information regarding CtrlWORK go to www.efficiencysoftware.co.uk/ctrlwork/





















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